7-Eleven eager to follow up on Obama's 'Slurpee Summit' idea

By David Kiefaber on Mon Nov 8 2010

Slurpee

Say what you will about Obama, but the guy can move product. He gave Bud Light a boost by drinking one during a meeting between James Crowley and Henry Louis Gates Jr., and now his offhand remark about holding a "Slurpee Summit" with newly elected Republicans has 7-Eleven champing at the bit to make that happen. The convenience-store chain has already petitioned White House officials to cater a summit between Democrats and Republicans "with red and blue Slurpees," or purple Slurpees with one red and one blue straw apiece. OK, that's a little much. But it could very well happen—7-Eleven is badgering the White House through New Partners, a firm with ties to Obama's 2008 campaign. And a presidential endorsement, accidental or not, would do a lot for any product's viability, especially one as historically unattached to power and privilege as the Slurpee. Of course, the presidency shouldn't be used to pitch consumer products at all, and this will saturate the 24-hour news cycle and blogosphere for weeks if it happens, so it isn't something I'm hoping for. Still, the visual of Pat Toomey trying to look mature while drinking a Slurpee has a certain appeal.

The big winner in the midterm elections? Tea Party merchandise

By T.L. Stanley on Wed Nov 3 2010

Tea-party

The midterm elections brought out the spending-like-a-drunken-sailor tendencies in some people, with Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina tossing in a combined $200 million of their own money to try, unsuccessfully, to win races in California. (If they really cared about the bankrupt state, why didn't they just write a couple of big fat checks toward the gaping deficit?) While not quite reaching those insane heights, ultra conservatives in the Tea Party movement spent "tens of millions" of dollars on swag that's meant to broadcast their opinions to anyone within viewing distance of their car bumpers, front porches or rear ends. According to USA Today, marketers that sell customizable Tea Party thongs, T-shirts, sneakers, flags and other merchandise haven't seen so much business since the wave of strong-selling hope-themed products around Barack Obama's election two years ago. (Not surprisingly, the rise of the former coincides with a drop in the latter.) Popular slogans on Tea Party goods include "Don't tread on me" on undies and "Obummer" on skateboards. Check out the story and see why you may have trouble locating that Tea Party bobblehead you have your heart set on. (Hint: It's not made in the US of A.)

Getting kids hooked no longer as easy for credit-card marketers

By T.L. Stanley on Mon Aug 30 2010

Credit-card

The college experience is hardly complete without the Freshman 15 (pounds, that is) and the beginnings of staggering credit-card debt. (Hey, I got a free T-shirt just for signing up for this plastic!) For decades, financial-services companies have been marketing heavily on college campuses, realizing that students who need textbooks and clothes (OK, and beer—lots of beer) can become lifelong customers, if not necessarily brand-loyal ones. It has mostly meant a mountain of debt for young adults who mistook the cards for free money and overused them accordingly. But new legislation aimed at halting the practice has taken effect this year. Among the restrictions: no more freebies for applying for credit cards, and no one under 21 gets one without an adult co-signer or a proven income. There's reason to put the kibosh on this kind of marketing, with the Washington Post citing figures that say the average student graduates with more than $4,100 in credit-card debt (up from $2,900 a few years ago) and just 15 percent of freshmen had a zero balance on their cards, down dramatically from 69 percent in 2004. Bank of America, Chase and others say they're paws off these days, but the Post story details ways that marketers are still showing some school spirit. Careful, kids, unless of course you have an open account with the Bank of Mom and Dad. In which case, go crazy!

San Francisco considers waging its own war against kids' meals

By David Kiefaber on Mon Aug 16 2010

Happy-meal

Fast-food chains are feeling threatened by a proposed San Francisco law to ban toys from kid's meals that are too high in fat, calories or sodium. As we reportedly earlier, Santa Clara County already adopted a similar measure, but it doesn't extend all that far. San Francisco's idea is a bigger threat, and the California Restaurant Association is not happy about it. "Toy bans are only proven to disappoint kids, frustrate parents and generate headlines for ambitious politicians," says CRA director of public affairs Daniel Conway. "The Board of Supervisors needs to stop gorging on political gimmicks and instead focus on creating jobs in their city." Don't worry, that isn't the only eating-related pun in Conway's remarks. He also notes that "the San Francisco Board of Supervisors seems to have an insatiable appetite for punishing the restaurant industry." Which is true to a point—California's crusade against junk food is a little silly compared to its other massive infrastructural problems—but it's also true that fast-food restaurants don't do enough to feature their healthier options alongside their traditional offerings. Fast food without fries and milkshakes is still fast, after all, so all the crowing about choice and convenience just sounds like a cheap rationalization for poor dietary decisions. That said, California is broke, so good luck enforcing this law should it actually pass.

California cheesed off by overseas shoots for 'Happy Cows' milk

Posted on Thu Jul 1 2010

Happy-cow

Happy cows are from California, but their commercials are from New Zealand. The California Milk Advisory Board took a fair amount of heat when state lawmakers found out that part of last year's "Happy Cows" campaign was shot in Auckland. California's been plagued with runaway production, and the state has offered tax credits to get movies and TV shows to stay in Hollywood. (The credits don't cover commercials, though.) Even so, there's a bill now winding its way through the state legislature that would require ads promoting state products and financed with public money to be filmed in California. The Los Angeles Times is calling it the "Happy Cow" bill. The milk board has argued that there were California cows in those ads, mixed with a few Kiwi bovine, and production costs were lower because of the change of venue. Lawmakers don't want to hear it—the bill has passed the State Assembly and is headed to the Senate in August. Chances of it passing are fairly high. Barstow, get ready for a stampede—and your close-up.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Abraham Lincoln still tops among your dead-president endorsers

Posted on Tue Jun 29 2010

The hottest star in commercials these days is our 16th president. We're used to seeing Abe Lincoln in Presidents Day sales, but now he's positively everywhere. The latest example is Geico, which follows the question "Can switching to Geico really save you 15 percent or more?" with "Was Abe Lincoln honest?" The answer, as we soon see, is that he was so honest, he couldn't even bat away the question "Does this make me look fat?" from his wife. In addition to the Geico ad, a green Abe is also starring in an ad for TD Bank. Lincoln also used to appear in ads with a beaver for the sleep drug Rozerem. And strangest of all (yes, stranger even than that Rozerem ad), he appears in a zombified state in an ad for Alabama Congressional candidate Rick Barber comparing the healthcare bill to slavery. On the eve of our nation's birthday, I, like Barber, feel I have to speak out: Hey, advertisers, leave Abe alone. He's not the freakin' Burger King.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

AriZona iced tea might wish it had a different name these days

Posted on Thu Apr 29 2010

Arizona Iced-tea maker AriZona is experiencing some collateral damage in the immigration debate over a new law in the state of Arizona. Since the law passed, making it a crime for illegal immigrants to be in the state and requires police to check citizens for evidence of legal status, opponents have called for a boycott of the state. On Tuesday, a comic writer named Travis Nichols suggested—jokingly, we think—that consumers should also boycott AriZona iced tea because it's "the drink of fascists." For whatever reason, others took Nichols up on the idea, even though the brand, now owned by Ferolito, Vultaggio & Sons, is based in New York. Responding to the bone-headed criticism, Don Vultaggio, founder and chairman of AriZona Beverages, set the record straight on the company's Web site: "We are very proud to be an American company with roots in New York," he wrote. No word yet if JCPenney brand Arizona Jeans is caught up in the debate as well. The company wisely changed the name to AZ Jeans a while back.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

County in California looking to ban McDonald's Happy Meal toys

Posted on Tue Apr 27 2010

Happy-meal

Leave it to the crunchy granola types in California to rain on the Happy Meal parade. County officials in Silicon Valley want to outlaw toys from the famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) McDonald's kids meals. That way, children won't want them as much, and they won't be as fat. Or so the thinking goes. Santa Clara County is proposing a ban on toys in any restaurant meal with more than 485 calories, more than 600 milligrams of salt or high sugar or fat content, according to the Los Angeles Times. If the proposal passes, it won't affect much—there are only about a dozen fast-food restaurants within the county's jurisdiction. But its broader implications, and its first-of-a-kind status, have the California Restaurant Association and others in a tizzy about government interference in action-figure and mini-stuffed-animal distribution. For Hollywood studios, it would be disastrous if they couldn't link their Ice Ages, Shreks and Alvin and the Chipmunks with the caloric, pint-sized meals. Even though Disney got out of that business when it didn't renew its long-term McDonald's deal, other movie makers rushed to fill the void, keeping the McD's calendar packed with entertainment promotions. We'll keep an eye on the situation, so check back for the vote.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

French car-rental company pokes fun at Sarkozy's height in ad

Posted on Tue Apr 27 2010

Sixt

Just as Twitter-fueled extramarital rumors about France's first couple have died down comes a new assault on the country's height-challenged leader, Nicolas Sarkozy. Sixt, one of Europe's largest car-rental companies, is running an ad (shown here) urging consumers to rent a small Citroen C3 hatchback, with the tagline: "Be like Madame Bruni, take a small French model." The photogenic couple—former model Carla Bruni is 5 inches taller than her husband and prefers flats to his heels—have been featured before in ads and have sued over the unauthorized use of their images. Not that the French president hasn't drawn attention for his own fast-and-loose portrayal of truth in (political) advertising: He's known to use a foot stool behind speech podiums, and last year he was accused of positioning short people around him as he visited an auto-parts factory in Normandy.

—Posted by Noreen O'Leary

AMC spoofs Weatherproof's Obama ad to trumpet 'Breaking Bad'

Posted on Wed Jan 27 2010

Amc

Why, they're practically mirror images, these two billboards, except one features a marketer playing fast and loose with likeness rights and the other focuses on a character skirting the rules in a much bigger way. AMC, home to the groundbreaking series Breaking Bad, couldn't resist a parody to promote the upcoming launch of the third season on March 21. The cable network chose to copy the maligned Weatherproof ad that used President Obama's image without his permission. The two sat side by side in New York's Times Square for at least a day. AMC's near-exact replica puts Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston, a two-time Emmy-winner in the role, in his meth-making accoutrement under the headline, "You got no proof." (He sure is defiant, that high school teacher turned drug kingpin, even though his criminal enterprise is starting to fray at the seams.) The Weatherproof billboard, already scheduled for removal, is due to come down today. The brilliant Breaking Bad ad will stay up for about a month.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley


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